By SUSAN ASCHOFF
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 1998
hey should be passe, these yolk-yellow blobs, each pulled from a clump of its chick buddies and stuffed head first into the mouth.
Peeps do not pop, ooze, explode, stain or pucker the palate like other au courant candy. A Peep is a pure sugar rush.
The gooey marshmallow Easter treat is more popular than ever. Enough are sold each Easter season for every man, woman and child in the United States to eat at least one. Peeps preen on almost 20 Web sites. They are lauded by fans for their adaptability as toss balls or hair ornaments. They inspire song and verse. They look nice in family photos.
"The world is divided into two," Craig says. "One group looks at a Peep and says, "You eat that?' And the other group really loves them. There is no on-the-fence in Peepdom."
Peep-haters dismiss them as too cute, too sweet. The little yellow-bellies let people bite their heads off.
But what's not to like?
Here is a candy so unapologetically sweet the sugar crunches on the teeth. Here is an edible so personable it can be dressed in cute little costumes. The Internet is alive with would-be Henry Higginses to Liza Peeps.
In a Best-Dressed Peeps contest in Philadelphia, a Peep wearing a scrap of cape becomes Lil' Bo Peep. Another on a tiny motorcycle is Peepy Rider. Peeps decorate a purse carried by a drag queen in an Easter-grass skirt. A movie concept, Bad Peeps, shows tattooed gang Peeps.
Peeps are popped into cocktail glasses to make Peeptinis, or spiked on skewers for Peep Kebabs. They are gorp for hikers; carbo-loading for lacrosse players.
In a Peeps Eating Contest, posted results show Mike inhaled five Peeps in 24.3 seconds.
Peeps are the weapons of subversives. One mall rat e-mails that she and a friend "Peep'ed" the shopping mall, sticking Peeps inside shoes and on store displays with ugly clothing. The notes read: You've been peeped.
"We have pictures of Peeps on Mount Nepal" that people sent us, Craig says. "I just don't think to pack Peeps when I travel."
"There's some I've talked to who do a lot of backpedaling to convince me they're responsible adults with families and jobs." She fondly calls them Peep Geeks.
Many credit Peeps' sweet sales figures to nostalgia among baby boomers, who are buying them for their own children. Just Born Inc. has made Peeps and Bunnies for 45 years.
Over the decades there have been few changes to Peeps. Peep wings were removed in 1991. The color purple was added in 1995, joining pink and the best-selling yellow. There are white Peeps, too, but they are scarce. Craig speculates that cooks snap up the white ones for their decorative possibilities. This year the company introduced bright blue.
Blue tests well for food products aimed at children: Jell-O, gum, sports drinks. The color consultant Pantone named blue the cutting-edge shade for toasters. Surely Pantone executives would be gratified to know Peeps are proving the prediction.
In talk of focus groups and colorcasting, Craig sounds almost as if she's trying to make Peeps . . . hip. Peeps compete against 500 new candy products on the market every year. Children today eat revoltingly bitter Mega Warheads, Shock Tarts, inky Splash Gum and slime out of a tube.
Peeps, by comparison, are tame, virtuous.
"Peeps don't do anything," Craig says. "For some people, that's kind of appealing: Simplicity."